By: Joe Barca, @BarkyCat
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Chevonne Mansfield, Director of Communications for the American Athletic Conference. Chevonne has served in her current position since December 2013. Despite working for professional sports teams like the Knicks, Jets, and Yankees, her love for college athletics is what brought her back to that side of the sports business industry.
Was communications always your ultimate goal?
“It wasn’t my career path in the beginning. It’s funny, the way I got here. I wasn’t a student-athlete; I didn’t play many sports outside of participating on my high school poms and flag team. I grew up watching sports, specifically Knicks and Mets games, with my uncle. And I liked watching it but didn’t think of it as a career path until I got to college at St. John’s. Originally, my major was Spanish. Back then I wanted to be an interpreter for the United Nations. I took a lot of advanced classes in high school, specifically A.P. classes. I was put into an advanced class at St. Johns when I first started as a freshman. That kind of scared me off a little bit. I realized I wasn’t fluent like I thought I was. After that, I decided I wasn’t going to continue. At the same time I was looking for a job on campus and saw an opening in the athletic communications office. I went there to see what it was about and they put me to work. I worked a couple of days a week and really started liking it. From there, I decided to change my major to Communications and pursue a career in sports information which is evolving into athletic communications.”
Why college athletics?
“Back then, I was going along to see what popped up. I did have opportunities to go into pro sports at a couple of different points in my career. But I really enjoy the variety of college athletics and working with different sports. I also think it keeps me young, being around student-athletes, young people, and aspiring sports business professionals. It keeps me on my toes. It’s just different. When I was an undergrad at St. John’s I was living in New York. When you’re living in the city you have access to a myriad of sports. I did internships with ESPN, the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), Jets and the Liberty. I did game days with the Yankees during the 2001 World Series and worked game nights with the Knicks and Rangers. So I got my feet wet in areas outside of college athletics and I enjoyed it! I always did, however, have a love for college athletics.”
What are your main responsibilities as Director of Communications for the American Athletic Conference?
“The main responsibilities… We divide the sports up. My primary sport responsibilities are to handle the day-to-day communications/media relations for men’s soccer and men’s basketball. So there’s no single day that’s ever been the same.”
“Typically, Mondays would be at a conference office selecting players of the week. The goal for most conferences is to have that done by early afternoon. So half of my day on Mondays is selecting players of the week. That’s the standard, regardless of what season you’re in or what sport you’re working with.”
“Some of the other day-to-days include our weekly release. We push that out in some sports more often than others. For men’s soccer, we do a weekly release on Tuesdays. For basketball, we do a release whenever we have games. So sometimes we put out a release daily, especially during conference season. We do that to keep our media members and constituencies updated. It’s all hands on deck for conference hosted events like media days and championships. You work non-stop and plan as much as you can ahead of time.”
“The conference office is a little bit different from when you’re on campus in terms of day-to-say responsibilities with sports. Part of our role at the conference office is strategic communication and P.R. in addition to media relations duties. I’m constantly scouring our teams for storylines to push out to media and to advance the conference brand.”
What was it like to receive CoSIDA Rising Star Award?
“I received that award in 2011, a little over four years ago. I was working with the SWAC at the time and my old boss from Howard University, Ed Hill, was on the CoSIDA Board of Directors back then. He nominated me and helped get the materials together. You need to turn in a big package of recommendation letters and things like that. I just remember it being a game changer for me, career wise. I gave a speech at the CoSIDA convention, in front of everyone. In that crowd was my future employer, Charles Bloom, from the SEC. I don’t know if Charles would have known about me had I not received that award. It just so happened they had an opening at the SEC at that time. I also received the award with Rob Knox, one of my good friends, which made it extra special.”
Advice for students/young professionals trying to make it in your industry?
“I think it’s a combination of your experience and your relationships. Everyone says you have to network, and you do. I just don’t think it should be called networking. To me it sounds like you’re using someone and you shouldn’t. It should be a two-way street. So for anyone that’s trying to get in, you have to start early with your experience and get your foot in the door wherever you can. It doesn’t matter where, the experience is key. I really don’t think your major matters much, at least in undergrad. My boss at the Knicks was a math major from Brooklyn College. I think it’s truly about your experience. You build your relationships while you earn your experience.”
“Also, pay attention to soft skills. You can learn technical skills like Statcrew and Adobe Creative Suite, but soft skills are much harder to learn.”
We would like to thank Chevonne for her time and insights and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors!
This interview is another edition of “Winning Edge Wednesday” in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry.If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at email@example.com.